Biographies provide useful genealogical information such as an individual’s birth date and place (including foreign birthplace, where applicable); marriage information; family members; occupation; education; and social, political, and religious affiliations. They may also contain previous residences, immigration information, and a physical description. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research, often compiled about the early settlers and prominent citizens of the state, county, or town. Many lesser-known individuals may have biographical sketches written about them, especially in local histories.
The Family History Library has a good collection of biographical sources. Representative biographical works for Kentucky include:
Kentucky Genealogy and Biography. 9 vols. Owensboro, KY: Genealogical Reference, 1969–. (FHL book 976.9 D3wt) These are reprints of the biographical sections of various editions of Kentucky: A History of the State, by W. H. Perrin, et al., published during the 1880s. The biographies are arranged by county. Another reprint of the biographical sections of Perrin’s work was published by the Southern Historical Press and bears the title of the original work, Kentucky: A History of the State. These volumes are facsimiles of the original biographies, with complete name indexes prepared by various individuals. New material was added in 1979. The Family History Library has described each volume on a separate record. (FHL book 976.9 H2p; volume numbers vary.)
The Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky of the Dead and Living Men of the Nineteenth Century. 1 vol. in 2. Cincinnati, Ohio: J. M. Armstrong, 1878. (FHL book 976.9 D3b; film 823790; index on film 908759 item15) This includes an index to the more than 1,000 biographies.
Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky: Embracing Biographies of Many of the Prominent Men and Families of the State. 1896. Reprint, Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1980. (FHL book 976.9 D36bi; film 962285) This book contains several hundred biographies and is indexed.
Biographical Directory of the Kentucky General Assembly. Frankfort, KY: Kentucky Historical Society, 1964. (FHL film 467391 item 2.) This directory includes members of every session of the Kentucky General Assembly from 1792 to 1964. From 1792 to 1851 the directory is arranged by district, county, then senator for the Senate and by county and then representative for the House of Representatives. After 1851 the directory is arranged by district, county, and Senator/Representative for both the Senate and House of Representatives. The notes section after every session often contains the date and place of death if the elected official died while in office. It also gives the names of those expelled and the date and reason for the action.
Dickey, John Jay. Autobiography and Diary. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 1951. (FHL films 157070–5.) John Jay Dickey (1842–1934) was a Baptist minister from Fleming County, Kentucky, who used his diary to record the genealogies of anyone who would allow him to do so. The diary runs from 18 November 1882 to 15 October 1933. It is indexed in:
Winton, Wilma. Pioneer Ghosts of Kentucky, Rest in Peace John Jay Dickey: A Comprehensive Name Index of the Dickey Diary. 4 vols. Modesto, California: Pearl Bullock, 1986. (FHL book 976.9 D3wi; 6010769–772) Mr. Dickey was a Baptist minister who lived in northeastern Kentucky from 1842 to 1934. During his ministry, he felt a need to preserve the genealogies of everyone he met.
A compilation of many biographical sketches from the Lyman Copeland Draper collection, described in the "History" section, is found in:
Draper, Lyman Copeland, comp. Draper Biographical Sketches. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Library, 1951. (FHL film 001750) This film is unindexed but includes many biographies of eminent early residents of Kentucky and nearby states.
Indexes. Indexes to major collected biographies include:
Cook, Michael L. Kentucky Index of Biographical Sketches in State, Regional, and County Histories. Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publications, 1986. (FHL book 976.9 D32c) This index is alphabetical by name and includes a page number and a reference to the book where the biography is published.
The Kentucky Biographies Project has compiled over 7,000 biographies, which are available on the Internet at:
Kentucky Biography. In Kentucky Biographies Project [Internet site]. Plano, Texas: Starbase-21, October 1999 [cited 25 October 1999]. Available at www.starbase21.com/kybiog/. These biographies can be searched by county or surname.
The Kentucky Historical Society, listed in the "Societies" section, has an extensive family surname file and a large collection of personal and family histories.
The Department of Special Collections and Archives at the Margaret I. King Library, listed in the "Archives and Libraries" section, has an extensive card index to Kentucky biographies.
The Surname Search of the Family History Library Catalog will lead you to biographies and published family histories on specific surnames. Using the term "Kentucky" in the Keyword Search will help to limit the extent of the search to families in Kentucky.
The Family History Library has many collected biographies and local or county histories with biographical sketches on residents. These can be found in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
KENTUCKY, [COUNTY]- BIOGRAPHY
KENTUCKY, [COUNTY]- HISTORY
KENTUCKY, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- HISTORY